Posted on July 11, 2014 at 6:38 PM
Friday, Jul 11 at 7:52 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NBC Charlotte I-Team has obtained new documents showing how a company owned by former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon kept a profitable parking contract at Carolinas HealthCare System for more than a decade without competition from other bidders.
Cannon has pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge for using his office for personal gain.
The NBC Charlotte I-Team first started asking questions about Patrick Cannon and corruption not when he was arrested in March, but more than a decade ago.
That's when Cannon's company EZ Parking won a profitable contract to manage 12,000 parking spaces for Carolinas Medical Center’s main campus, at CMC Mercy and CMC Pineville, a $1.2 million annual expense for the hospitals.
We reported in June 2004 how Cannon's company’s pitch to CMC touted him “as a highly visible member of the city council,” and thus able to contact city authorities to resolve any emergency.
At the time Cannon said he did not draft the statement, saying, “It's a typographical error; something that shouldn't be there because obviously no one contacts about those things anyway from CMC and I think it would probably be inappropriate for me to do that kind of thing anyway.”
EZ Parking was not the lowest bidder on the CMC deal but it won anyway. A CMC spokesman says the medical center considers value rather than price alone and at the time a CMC Vice-President told WCNC-TV that he thought Cannon’s company offered the best service.
Cannon said at the time, “I imagine in CMC's mind we were the best qualified to perform the job.”
When the I-Team pressed him, asking if it “had anything to do with you being a highly visible member of the city council,” Cannon replied, smiling, “I sincerely doubt that. I've probably lost deals because I'm a member of the city council more than I've gained deals by way of being a member of the city council.”
In words now rich with irony, Cannon told WCNC-TV in 2004, “It's inappropriate in my opinion to go out and use your title for something that might give you the edge per se.”
Because now Canon has pleaded guilty to using his city office for personal gain and is probably going to prison. But CMC has never put the parking contract back out to bid.
The hospitals just kept renewing it.
At one point an internal email from CMC shows a hospital employee even talked about automatically renewing the deal but was told it was against hospital policy.
The day after Cannon was arrested, an email shows EZ Parking called CMC to assure the hospitals that investigators "did not ask for or attain any information on any clients including CHS (Carolinas Healthcare Systems)," the parent company of CMC.
EZ parking is not being investigated, the memo says.
And according to the email, Patrick Cannon is now a silent co-owner of 50 percent of the company.
EZ Parking spokesman Jay Ferguson says the company does not comment on any of its clients but confirmed that EZ is not under federal investigation.
A spokesman for CMC said the hospital does not have a set time period for contracts and can maintain the same vendor if it feels like it’s getting a good deal.
But, by the way, according to the documents and statements by spokesmen, CMC had planned to ask for new parking proposals months before the mayor's arrest.